During a “Gay Rights”/Juneteenth Parade in Fort Lauderdale, a man drove his pickup truck into a crowd killing one and injuring another. It was immediately denounced as a “terrorist attack” against the LGBTQ+ community. Here are some of the comments:
• 2 hit by truck that was aiming for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s car, a person is dead. “This is a terrorist attack against the LGBT community…deliberate, it was premeditated, and it was targeted against a specific person,” say authorities.
• Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) was the apparent target of an assassination attempt by a man who ran his truck through a Pride Parade in Florida.
• “This is a terrorist attack against the LGBT community,” Ft. Lauderdale mayor Dean Trantalis said. “This is exactly what it is. Hardly an accident. It was deliberate, it was premeditated, and it was targeted against a specific person. Luckily, they missed that person, but unfortunately, they hit two other people.”
Even after the facts came out that it was an accident and that the man who drive his truck into the crowd was wearing a “Gay Pride” shirt, had a rainbow flag in the bed of his truck, and was a member of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus, some in the media and the LGBTQ+ community continued to push the false narrative for political purposes, even blaming the affair on Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The goal is to obscure the underlying assumptions of a worldview to promote an agenda. We’re seeing this happen every day, from climate change rhetoric and Critical Race Theory to evolution and anti-supernaturalism. For example, Don Lemon who is black and a homosexual, said the following: “I don’t know if America sees Black people and especially Black gay men as fully human, and as deserving of the American Dream.” (Source) In a world without God, no one is deserving of anything. In a world created by God with moral norms, all human beings are bound to follow those moral norms, including sexual norms. Even the facts of biology and anatomy speak out about God’s design. Without God, there is no reason to follow any moral norm or claim of dignity or worth.
For those set in their anti-supernatural worldview ways, there will always be some naturalistic reason why miracles are impossible, and no amount of evidence will convince them otherwise. Consider the following humorous story to make the point that evidences only make sense within the context of a person’s already accepted worldview:
Once upon a time there was a man who thought he was dead. His concerned wife and friends sent him to the friendly neighborhood psychiatrist. The psychiatrist determined to cure him by convincing him of one fact that contradicted his belief that he was dead. The psychiatrist decided to use the simple truth that dead men do not bleed. He put his patient to work reading medical texts, observing autopsies, etc. After weeks of effort the patient finally said, “All right, all right! You’ve convinced me. Dead men do not bleed.” Whereupon the psychiatrist stuck him in the arm with a needle, and the blood flowed. The man looked down and contorted, ashen faced and cried: “Good Lord! Dead men bleed after all!”
Thinking Straight in a Crooked World
The nursery rhyme ‘There Was a Crooked Man’ is an appropriate description of how sin affects us and our world. We live in a crooked world of ideas evaluated by crooked people. Left to our crooked nature, we can never fully understand what God has planned for us and His world. God has not left us without a corrective solution. He has given us a reliable reference point in the Bible so we can identify the crookedness and straighten it.Buy Now
Sounds ridiculous, but there are real-life examples of people who argue in a similar way. The facts for this “dead man” were not convincing because of his operating presupposition. The evidence presented to him was incontrovertible for someone who operated within a worldview with the starting assumption that only living people bleed. To maintain the legitimacy of his worldview, our patient only had to make a few adjustments to his worldview to fit in a new “fact” unknown to him before—dead men do bleed. The doctor and the patient were looking at the same fact—the flow of blood—but their operating worldviews caused them to come to different conclusions as to what the evidence meant.
We’ve all experienced this. The debate over abortion is not only about the evidence. It can’t be since the evidence is the same for pro- and anti-abortionists. The same is true in the creation-evolution debate. Biologists, anthropologists, chemists, and philosophers from both positional sides are looking at the same evidence, but they come to different conclusions. What makes the difference? A prior commitment to a set of presuppositions.
Consider the following from evolutionist Richard Lewontin:
We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
There you have it! I couldn’t have made the point any better.
Oftentimes it’s difficult to convince people that science is not the objective field of study it’s made out to be. Even when the facts don’t make sense, the unproven prior commitment to materialism must be embraced at all costs no matter what the facts might say. To loosen the grip just a little means that God must be considered as the prime factor in the equation, and this will never do for the materialist even if it means being irrational and unscientific to protect a worldview that needs God to account for the logic that is used to keep Him out.
The goal in apologetics, as Dr. Greg Bahnsen taught, was to approach a person at the level of his worldview, a worldview that is built on a set of operating assumptions about the source and nature of knowledge that gives meaning to the facts and experiences he encounters. Bahnsen offers the following helpful summary of the methodology:
Everybody thinks and reasons in terms of a broad and fundamental understanding of the nature of reality, of how we know what we know, and of how we should live our lives. This philosophy or outlook is “presupposed” by everything the unbeliever (or believer) says; it is the implicit background that gives meaning to the claims and inferences drawn by people. For this reason, every apologetical encounter is ultimately a conflict of worldviews or fundamental perspectives (whether this is explicitly mentioned or not).
Consider the resurrection. Since the universe was created by God out of things that are not visible (Heb. 11:3), and man was formed “of dust from the ground” (Gen. 2:7), then reanimating a dead body would not be hard for God. Paul makes the point to King Agrippa: “Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead?” (Acts 26:8). The logic is simple: Since God creates; He can certainly recreate. Accounts of supernatural (from our point of view) events found in the Bible are easily accounted for when the operating presupposition is that the Creator of the cosmos is behind the events.
The Bible begins with the operating presupposition that “God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). If this is not the starting point, then nothing makes sense. There is no way to account for reason, logic, love, goodness, personhood, or meaning of any kind in a random, matter-only cosmos. “In short,” Bahnsen argued, “presuppositional apologetics argues for the truth of Christianity ‘from the impossibility of the contrary.’ Someone who is so foolish as to operate in his intellectual life as though there were no God (Ps. 14:1) thereby ‘despises wisdom and instruction’ and ‘hates knowledge’ (Prov. 1:7, 29). He needs to be answered according to his folly—demonstrating where his philosophical principles lead—‘lest he be wise in his own eyes’ (Prov. 26:5).”
So then, instead of beginning with the bits and pieces of a worldview (evidence for this or that doctrine, or this or that so-called god), the starting point is more fixed and fundamental. “Thus, when all is said and done,” Bahnsen makes clear, “apologetics becomes the vindication of the Christian worldview as a whole, not simply a piecemeal defense of isolated, abstractly defined, religious points.” It’s with this operating presupposition that Bahnsen called his students to “push the antithesis,” that is to force the unbeliever to live consistently with his rationalistic and materialistic presuppositions that underlie and seemingly support his worldview. It’s this push that exposes the inherent fault lines in naturalistic worldviews that begin with the supposed sovereignty of the creature rather than the Creator, which is the essence of the antithesis. “Without the ingredient of antithesis, Christianity is not simply anemic, it has altogether forfeited its challenge to all other worldviews.” Bahnsen continues:
Abraham Kuyper well understood that all men conduct their reasoning and their thinking in terms of an ultimate controlling principle—a most basic presupposition. For the unbeliever, this is a natural or naturalistic principle, in terms of which man’s thinking is taken to be intelligible without recourse to God. For the believer, it is a supernatural principle based on God’s involvement in man’s history and experience, notably in regeneration—[a] perspective that provides the framework necessary for making sense of anything. These two ultimate commitments—call them naturalism and Christian supernaturalism—are logically incompatible and seek to cancel each other out.
When pushed to be consistent with the operating assumptions of their worldview, naturalists soon learn that matter-only presuppositions don’t work and lead to nihilism. R. C. Sproul puts it well: “Although I do not embrace presuppositional apologetics, I do recognize that the existence of God is the supreme proto-supposition for all theoretical thought. God’s existence is the chief element in constructing any worldview. To deny this chief premise is to set one’s sails for the island of nihilism. This is the darkest continent of the darkened mind—the ultimate paradise of the fool.” Amen.
Against All Opposition
An apologetic methodology that claims Christians should be ‘open,’ ‘objective,’ and ‘tolerant’ of all opinions when they defend the Christian faith is like a person who plans to stop a man from committing suicide by taking the hundred-story plunge with him, hoping to convince the lost soul on the way down.Buy Now
John Warwick Montgomery, The Altizer-Montgomery Dialogue (Chicago: InterVarsity Press, 1967), 21–22. For a different illustration of this phenomenon, see the Introduction in Gary DeMar, Thinking Straight in a Crooked World: A Christian Defense Manual (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2001).
Richard Lewontin, “Billions and Billions of Demons,” The New York Review (January 9, 1997), 31.
Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1998), 30.
Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic, 6.
Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic, 31.
Greg L. Bahnsen, “At War with the Word: The Necessity of Biblical Antithesis,” Antithesis, 1:1 (January/February 1990), 6
Bahnsen, “At War with the Word,” 48.
R. C. Sproul, The Consequences of Ideas: Understanding the Concepts that Shaped our World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2000), 171.